Surly Bonds


Fiction - Thriller - General
356 Pages
Reviewed on 02/22/2013
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Award winning author Michael Byars Lewis grew up in the Air Force and graduated from Louisiana State University. A professional pilot, he has accumulated over 5,000 flying hours in military and civilian flying, including his time as an airline pilot flying the 737-200 and the 737-800. Michael's adventures have given him the opportunity to travel around the world but he remains content living happily in Florida with his wife Kim and their two children, Lydia and Derek. SURLY BONDS is his first novel.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

"Surly Bonds" by Michael Byars Lewis is the story of Jason Conrad and his fellow Lieutenants Matt, Vince and Lenny as they train to become fighter pilots. The story takes place at the Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma. Jason seems to be struggling to keep up with the studies and flight tests. He also has some romantic entanglements that serve as unwanted distractions. His ex-wife is pestering him and reopening the wounds caused by her infidelities, and an attractive local woman, Kathy, seems like the real deal.

Lewis has crafted an intriguing and suspenseful thriller that also gives the reader a birds-eye view of life as a pilot-in-training. I particularly enjoyed the vicarious experience of walking around the plane with Jason under the eagle eye of his instructor and going for the flight sessions. There are two plots in it: after we get to know Jason and his classmates, a second story starts to form on the other side of the world in Russia, and Lewis deftly moves the action along in both plots. Jason is a compelling character. He works hard for his grades and has a strong sense of loyalty to his friends, even the ones who seem to have a much easier time with their coursework than he does. It is interesting to see how he copes with problems and critical situations and gets stronger as he goes along. This is a suspenseful and well-crafted thriller that delivers, and I enjoyed every minute spent reading it.

Maria Beltran

Jason Conrad has one burning ambition in life and that is to be a pilot. Previously married to Bethany, an aspiring film actress, he is now focused on finishing his pilot training and hopes to graduate so that he can start flying his beloved jets. However, the lieutenant is saddled with a secret. His quest to be a pilot is derailed by murder, scandals and gambling. He comes to a point where has to make a decision as to what direction his life should take. This is in 1995 when the Cold War between Russia and the United States and their allies is still ongoing. A group of Russians are planning to overthrow the Russian government and the CIA is in touch with Mikeal Tolstoy, their spy in Russia. Conrad somehow finds himself involved in this dangerous game.

"Surly Bonds" is the first novel written by Michael Byars Lewis and his main character is an aspiring pilot. This proves to be a big advantage because the author obviously knows the inside story and the technical know-how in training to be a pilot. He is a professional pilot who was raised in the Air Force. With this as a backdrop, he is able to weave a tapestry of action and adventure that is quite complex. It is interesting to note that it has a coherent theme in spite of all of the twists and turns in the story. "Surly Bonds" is a complicated thriller that takes place in Texas, Russia and Oklahoma. The plot is certainly unpredictable and will keep the reader guessing, as he goes on a roller coaster ride filled with action. Obviously influenced by the style of John Grisham, Michael Byars Lewis is an author to watch out for in this genre.

Paul Johnson

It is 1995 and in Jason Conrad, a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force wants to be a pilot. Pilot training isn’t easy but all he really wants to do is fly jets. But Jason has a secret, a secret that is destined to become the driving factor in his life. Jason’s struggles in pilot training soon become eclipsed with gambling, scandal, and then murder as he discovers that the cold war with the newly transformed Russia isn’t really over. As his secret comes to light, he quickly finds himself injected into the Presidential race of 1996 and in a deadly race against time where he must stop the unthinkable from happening.

"Surly Bonds" is a very well-thought-out action-packed novel, a thriller that takes the reader on a wild ride from the skies over Enid, Oklahoma, and the streets of Moscow to the famous Riverwalk in San Antonio. The author has created a diverse set of characters each with his/her own problems and troubles to overcome. The dialog is first rate. For me the plot does start a little slowly, but as the main characters' lives continue to weave together it quickly gathers speed and once the action takes off the reader will find they really don’t want to stop reading. And what a surprise ending it has, one that most readers will never see coming! Yes, this story does have it all: Action upon action, intrigue, attempted murder and a little romance on the side. What could be better? Very well done.

Catharine Jeter

Thrilling Military Novel! One of the most insightful novels on the inner circle of Air Force pilots ever written! SURLY BONDS by Michael Byars Lewis is a thrill-a-minute ride that will keep your head ‘spinning’ as you try to figure out Jason Conrad’s dilemma’s! Lewis has weaved the complexities of military pilot training with a former leader of the KGB attempting to overthrow the Russian government! How can those two things even begin to be related? You’ll be surprised and entertained as it is done in such a manner that it makes total sense and is a very plausible scenario. There’s nothing in this book that would require the reader to ‘suspend their belief’. My son-in-law is an Air Force Pilot and says this guy has nailed it!

Derek Michael

Incredible read! Able to connect with the characters and it keeps you guessing the entire novel with twists and turns until the very end. It kept me wanting more. I couldn't put it down and finished it in one sitting! The authors military background brings the book to life with realistic insight! Highly recommend the novel!

Matt Palmer

This book was one of the best books I have read in a while. It gives you a unique insight on the intense training pilots undergo, but it does not end there. Surly Bonds expresses the strong moral character that it requires to not only purse a career as a pilot, but to live life to the best of ones ability and to do things for the right reason, even when it is hard. This book hooks you hard and early; you will find it hard to put down. There are so many twists that keep your interest and keep you guessing. The book reaches a new depth in forcing the reader to contemplate his/her own relationships and reflect on the people who have been so important their lives. Michael Byars Lewis is a master storyteller who is destined for even greater things than he has already accomplished. I wish him and his book nothing but the best and I cannot wait to see what he has next for us.

Nelson Enrique

Great book and I definitely recommend it.

Don Robert

Absolutely amazing read! The book captures your interest early and lead you through basic Air Force pilot training and fighter pilot training as well as international intrigue. I found it a truly fascinating read. Encourage those who haven't read it please do so.

Mary Martin

As a wife of an AF pilot in training over 50 years ago, this book brought back fond memories and was still relevant in many ways. However, I am not sure the "good ole days" were quite as exciting as those portrayed in the book. The book is thrilling from the beginning to the end and certainly keeps you guessing as to what will happen next. The ending is truly a surprise. Looking forward to a sequel.

J. J. Martin

After my wife read this book, she insisted I read it too. Normally I stick to sports books but what a thriller and good read for a first time author. Very impressive. The knowledge of the author about flight training makes it seem very real and the introduction of the Russian aspect adds to the intrigues. Excellent read.

Rebecca Davidson


Riveting! An exceptional read. Looking forward to more from the author.

James R Jeter

A real page turner. A great look inside how military flight training really works while following an intriguing plot. Gripping all the way to the end.

john mese

an amazing first novel from Michael Byers Lewis, about the cold war, and the airforce pilot training program - - tense and filled with intrigue, as well as an insider's view of the goings on of it all. a page turner to the end. hat's off "mr. lewis" for a job well done! if you like thrillers, you will love Surly Bonds!

Glen Berree, Capt. USN,(R

Loved this book. As an active duty Air Force officer, Mike Lewis, brings his talent and experience into a real page-turner. I'm looking forward to his next one.

John Scott

Terrific book...one that was difficult to put down. Insightful glimpse into the military combined with surprising story line. Hoping for a sequel.

Mike Harding

Great read and a true page-turner. The author masterfully weaves knowledge from his Air Force career into an easy-to-read thriller which takes you inside military pilot training with an international mystery intrigue! You won't be able to put this book down!

Chris M

Great read! I truly enjoyed the dual plot line and the depth of all characters. Lewis hit a home run with this book and I can't wait to read the sequel!